In Blogging for Business, the Operative Word Isn’t “Anyone”!


“What do you notice when you visit a model home in a new development? Often you will find wonderfully furnished and decorated rooms that anyone could live in.” So begins an article I received the other day from my realtor friend Gadi Boukai, stressing that “the operative word is ‘anyone’”. Professionals who set up a model home make it anonymous for a reason, the article goes on to explain. They want buyers to view it as their potential home, not someone else’s. Those professionals know – based on decades of experience, that this strategy helps sell houses faster and at a better price.

Interesting, because, at Say It For You, we realize that with blog content writing, the exact opposite might be the case. Your blog can’t be all things to all people, any more than your business can be all things to everybody.  The blog must be targeted towards the specific type of customers you want and who are most likely to want to do business with you.  Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.

The home viewers my friend Gadi is describing are clearly already interested in buying a home; they know what overall indoor and outdoor space and amenity needs they have, and they are looking to “match” those needs with the home they’re viewing. The “blanker’ the canvas, the easier it will be for that “match” to take place. Similarly, the only prospects who are likely to visit your blog are those searching for information on precisely what you sell, what you know, and what you know how to do.

The difference is, the blog content needs to ‘hit the spot” with visitors in a very targeted and individual way, differentiating your products or services from those offered by your competitors. With millions of other blogs out there for searchers to find, it’s only highly specific evidence that will resonate with the right visitors. Not only is having a focused topic important in each blog post, writing content with a specific audience in mind (rather than appealing to anyone) will make the difference between success and failure.

Gadi’s customers need to “see themselves” living in the home they’re touring, making their own mental and emotional “match” with those surroundings. With blog visitors, it’s the same, yet different. Your website content and blog posts can demonstrate that you’re offering all the right products and services, the ones your online visitors need. Despite that, you might still be experiencing a very high “bounce rate”, meaning that visitors to your blog are thinking to themselves “No, that’s not what I meant!” As part of their visit to your site, you have to appropriately signal to your visitor that you understand, serve, and most important, understand the situations and challenges they have faced in prior situations of  using your type of product or service.

Home buyers (at least it was that way pre-COVID-19!) are typically are left to roam the home on their own, “seeing” if this is the place for them. In contrast, with blog marketing, the content needs to put out targeted ‘prompts”. The business owner or professional practitioner is in essence telling the visitor -“To me, you’re not just anyone – I see you. I really see you!”

 

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Guest blog post: The Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Differentiator

 

Today’s blog post was contributed by networking colleague Karen Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Solutions, which helps entrepreneurial companies augment their in-house marketing. Many of the insights offered here are useful for blog content writers…

In a world of so many choices, shopping can be harrowing. Whether you are shopping for the perfect pair of athletic shoes or for the best professional service provider for your growing business, you have so many options.

The shopping experience as education

Shopping is essentially education. Of course, in the case of an afternoon at the mall or a late-night binge on Amazon, it can also be largely entertaining. It’s exhilarating to find something that we didn’t know we needed. Maybe we buy it on impulse or make a mental note to consider it in the future.

In the case of buying professional services for your business, it’s often hard to understand the differences between providers. You don’t shop for bookkeepers or web developers very often, so you may feel you need to educate yourself by interviewing several. You might be frustrated because you get a different sales pitch every time. It’s never an apples-to-apples comparison.


The buyer has the biggest role in identifying a differentiator

In the age of the internet, there’s no reason not to do your homework before you start your shopping. You’ll find a wealth of good information with a simple and thoughtful Google search. Don’t be afraid to ask even casual business colleagues for some guidance or referrals. There’s no need to start from scratch.

1. Do start with a budget.
Don’t worry, your budget can be a broad range. However, you’ll waste everyone’s time, especially your own, if you start shopping features without some budgetary guidelines.

2. Identify your 3-7 key deal breakers.
These are only the absolute must haves. Keep them simple because these are the first things you will use to qualify or disqualify candidates. Don’t forget some deal-breakers may be soft-skills like “prefers to communicate by phone rather than email”.

3. Your short list probably should be more alike than not
When you finally invite sales pitches, your candidates should look pretty similar. They should certainly all be capable of meeting your deal-breakers. If they are vastly different in features or benefits, you may not have done enough homework.

4. Transparency is two-sided, too.
Don’t come to the table with the intention of getting free consultation buried in the pitch. That may be a pleasant bonus. However, healthy relationships are built on mutual respect. Be honest and open with your expectations and your budget. At the same time, you have every right to expect the same honesty in the pitch.

5. Ask for clarification.
Proposals shouldn’t surprise you. If you receive competing proposals that look significantly different in terms of deliverables and costs, consider whether you’ve been misunderstood or simply over-sold. Regardless, if you don’t ask for clarification, you may miss your best choice and your best, unsolicited learning opportunity.

Karen Sullivan may be contacted at Karen@sullivansolutions.com

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In Blogging for Business, Grammar is a Big Deal


“You might believe the past tense of the verb lead is lead, but that’s not how things are,” says Marko Ticak in the grammarly blog. (Led is the past tense of lead.) Big deal, you’re thinking… Yes, it is. As a blog content writing trainer, I know the truth of author Joanne Adams’ words: Pay attention to proper spelling and grammar, Adams says, and “people who read your writing will know, without a sliver of doubt, that you are somebody who really knows their $h*t”.

At Say It For You, my favorite recommendation to business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to help bring their message to their customers is simply this: Dress your blog in its best. Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions” such as grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors. Perhaps it’s true that most readers won’t notice errors, but business owners or practitioner ought to ask themselves a simple question: “Can I afford to have even one potential customer noticing my lack of care?”

Just to be sure you know your $h*t, Adams offers a list of infinitives and their proper past tense forms (along the lines of “lead/led”):

  • build/built
  • choose/chose
  • lie/lay (another very common mistake)
  • lose/lost
  • spend/spent

Other bothersome twosomes often confused include:

  • advice (the noun – what you give or receive) and advise (the verb)
  • imply (the speaker or writer does this)/ infer (the listener or reader does this)
  • lose (can’t seem to find) and loose (not tight enough)

One expression to erase from your mind and your writing, Adams advises, is “a lot”. It’s OK to use “a lot”, but don’t smoosh the words together.

I’ll admit that, over the years, I’ve been accused of being a “grammar Nazi”, so you can imagine why I identify with the material in Joanne Adams’ book. But, really, all content writers should. Grammar mistakes are very much like the much-publicized TV star wardrobe mishaps – they call attention away from the kind of impression we intend to make on behalf of our businesses or professional practices.

In blogging for business, grammar affects the effect!

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Valuable Blog Marketing Lesson in a Solo Cup

target market
You know those red plastic SOLO drinking cups? Maybe you’re heard that the lines wrapped around the outside are actually measuring guides, observes Todd Hunt in his latest Hunt’s Headlines email. The line closest to the bottom measures 1 ounce of liquor, the next one 5 ounces of wine, with the line close to the top measuring 12 ounces of beer. Forget that, says parent company Dart Container Corporation, stating in no uncertain terms that the lines are designed for function only and are not measurements.

“Advertising can….introduce emotions, images, and symbols that stimulate desire, and it can show how a product or brand compares favorably to competitors,” lumenlearning.com explains.
“Reminder advertising reminds people about the need for a product or service, or the features and benefits it will provide when purchased.”

According to the Cleveland State University Writing Center, “Critical readers seek knowledge; they do not “rewrite” a work to suit their own personalities”. But are blog readers “critical” in that sense? Not likely. Sure, as blogginexplorer.com stresses, “Simply put, your blog’s target audience is the group of readers who your blog can help the most.” And, when you target that very specific audience, you have a better idea about what they need and want.

Still, content writers need to be aware that readers bring their own biases to the page. Without even realizing it, blog visitors are going to be thinking about how they might use those lines on the red plastic cup to measure beer or wine (whether that was our intention or not!). And, we’ve come to realize at Say It For You, that’s OK. Blog posts are not meant to be ads, instead functioning like “advertorials”.

When you first begin blogging, Qeryz.com admits, “there is only ‘the middle’, entailing what you do, what you offer, and what problems you solve”. Surrounding this “middle” is your potential audience and what they care about. Identifying your audience is a process that never stops, cautions Queryz founder Sean Si.

As a blog marketer, salesbacker.com suggests, you have different ways to differentiate your product from competitors, including:

  • by size
  • by origin
  • by branding or decoration
  • by packaging
  • by adding a feature or ingredient
  • by offering a bonus

One way to engage blog readers is to share the history of your company. (The Solo Cup company, was founded in Chicago during the Great Depression, and is now 84 years old!) “How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned.

The lesson in the solo cup? To the blog writer, the product or service might represent one thing; to individual readers, it might represent another! It’s all good….

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Business Blogging – Staying Silent is the Wrong Choice

“The COVID19 pandemic has put much of the world on pause. Blogging shouldn’t be one of them, writes Manish Dudharejia in the Search Engine Journal. Staying slilent is the wrong choice. Dudharejia names several reasons why:

  • People are on their digital devices more than ever now.
  • You have an opportunity to produce messaging that is not about anxiety-inducing topics.
  • You have the chance to discuss what your brand is doing to keep people safe.
  • Continuous communication and support builds customer trust and loyalty.
  • You have the chance to gain followers, even if they are not yet buyers.

“Customers want to know that you are surviving this new normal with them, so taking your customers along for the ride through various outlets of online marketing will ensure you have the support to get to and through these difficult times,” explains Makenzie Walker of topfloortech.com. “Positivity and reassurance are a business’ best friends,” Walker adds.

As a business owner myself, I loved the viewpoint of Karen Lombardo of Put Another Way.
Sales mentality, she says, can be divided into two categories: farming and hunting. Hunters find opportunities to close business; farmers engage with clients and forge and strengthen relationships. “The hat to wear in today’s environment,” Lombardo advises, “is the farmer.” Consistent communication is key right now. You have valuable knowledge and expertise. Put it out there, she says.

Way back in 2009, Tony Fannin, president of BE Branded, commented on the fact that in the economic environment of that time, businesses were cutting back their marketing and advertising. In effect what those business owners were saying, Fannin quipped, is “Let’s put less gas in the car so we can drive further and save money!” Without consistent reminders, brands are easily forgotten, he warned.

At Say It For You, we’re acutely conscious of the fact that it’s never been more important for brands to show purpose, going from information-dispensing to offering perspective on issues related to both the search topic and the times in which we’re living.

“May you live in interesting times” is a translation of a traditional Chinese curse, and we are certainly living in interesting times now. One thing’s for certain when it comes to business blogging – staying silent is the wrong choice!

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